Saturday, December 28, 2013

Grieving the Leaving and Turning the Page

Grieving the Leaving and Turning the Page

            As I threaded my way on a crazy-quilt patchwork route through Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona, headed for the border into Mexico, I have memorized, imprinted and loved every scrap of color and beauty. Except for one drab piece of brown southeast of Yakima.  

            For much of the trip tears rolled down my face. Each bend in the road seemed to generate memories; memories of those in my life who have died, memories of precious times with friends and family, memories that I had hoped would lie buried forever. I drank deeply of each memory.

            Ever since I made the decision to move, I have been aware this is my opportunity to create a new life, a life without the familiar comforts of place, friends, language and culture. For me, this means I can also leave behind some old, worn-out beliefs. While driving through that drab empty brown, I “got it”. I “got” that I really will create a new life. I “got it” on a deeper, visceral level and burst into loud, gasping wails doing seventy down the freeway. 

            Exciting? Terrifying? Cleansing? Rejuvenating? Yes, all at the same time. Along with all the tears has come a heightened awareness of how special it is to be alive each new day. Each day is a new page on which to write my new life script. 

            Along with heightened awareness has come a lowering of my cellular brain mass. Or something. Let me describe a typical day. I drove the Spaghetti Bowl into Las Vegas to spend a couple days with Tim and Tara. Tara is one of my “girls”. She and my daughter Dee went to college together, spent holidays at my home and Tara even lived with me a while. Tim and Tara teach school in Vegas. 

            I asked Tim to help me download Microsoft Word. I had belatedly discovered that my new/old-reconditioned laptop computer did not have Word. That explained why I could not get it to load a new Word page for me to write. Believe me, I had tried. In the process Tim asked me for my email address. “”, I told him. I left out the “.ashton” part. Visa took my money. Microsoft refused to download. Tim fiddled around with no success for an hour. Finally he called Microsoft for support. As we are together going over all the data again, I strung together (There you have it if you would like to email me.) When I realized my mistake, I wanted to shoot out my eyeballs and bury my corpse in the desert. 

            See, writing a new page each day without the past hovering over everything one does is like being a young child who has not yet learned her ABC’s. That’s me. It can be infuriating. I’m learning all kinds of new things from the basement up. 

            It gets even better/worse. The afternoon I left Tim and Tara in Vegas, I headed for Kingman, Arizona. The entire route had me exclaiming, “Oh, My God,” around every bend of breathtaking beauty. I pulled into a clean, cheap and adequate motel in Kingman, secured a room and opened the back of my van to get my bag.  

            I had placed my bag where we three each had to stumble over the top of it to get out the door. Tim and Tara had spent the afternoon out. They got home at the same time I was patting around for my invisible bag. We both called and got each other’s voice mail. Finally connected. “Tara, I would replace everything but it has all my new underwear. And my money.” They brought me my bag. They drove my bag to Kingman that evening. 

            I felt like Scarecrow on the Yellow Brick Road, all straw and no brains. Two weeks ago I spent fifteen days soaking in lithium-laced hot water springs in the mountains of Montana. I would love the explanation that I am still in lithium la-la-land. Part of me wants to return for another dose. 

            The rest of me is committed to move forward, turn a fresh page and when I find myself tripping down the Yellow Brick Road, I can always sing and dance.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
November 14, 2013

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